Chic Shopping Paris by Rebecca Perry Magniant
Little Bookroom, New York 208 Pages $16.95, L9.99 UK
Having simply nothing to wear, I was really happy to receive my review copy of Chic Shopping Paris just in time for the July summer sales – and also, unfortunately, just in time for the increasingly poor exchange rate between the dollar and the Euro.
So, it was with the heavy heart of a born-again shopper who knows that she must confine herself to ‘window shopping’ that I tucked this handbook into my ‘nameless’ consignment-shop handbag in hopes of expanding my ‘chic shopping savvy’.
As I’ve mentioned in past reviews of Little Bookroom publications, these cute little square books published on sturdy paper with rounded corners will fit effortlessly into your designer handbags. At $16.95 US or 9.99 UK, this is a book that will withstand numerous shopping excursions. Photographer Alison Harris who also illustrated Paris Markets proves that some of the best color photography can be had from a photographer who specializes in black and white. (Only those of you brought up on black&white television might understand this concept of color deprivation engendering a greater understanding of color’s essential role in ‘the photo’). Witness the Jay Ahr ‘little red dress’ which gets a double take, first on the title page and then a close-up oggle opposite the Jay Ahr boutique description.
Tips from a Paris Insider
Author Rebecca Perry Magniant is the quintessential ‘American in Paris’. Married to a Parisian, she has made it her business to ferret out the boutiques of the well-heeled and the well-coiffed. Rather than guard these addresses as a ‘top secret survival kit’ for living in Paris, Magniant has put her legwork to good use.
Chic Shopping Paris is Magniant’s own personal shopping tour service for Paris visitors who consider shopping to be a blend of cultural and adventure travel wrapped into one heady fragrance. (True shopping addicts, you understand!)
So, now it’s time to slip on your comfortable Prada sandals for a trek through the various neighborhoods for a ‘look-see’ at Chic Shopping’s preferred shops. I decided to head toward the St. Germain-des-Pres neighborhood which is walking distance from Montparnasse.
I found a number of Chic Shopping Paris’s boutiques along my route including: Marie Papier at 26 Rue Vavin, Marie Puce at 16 Rue Brea, La Compagnie de Provence Marseille at 5 Rue Brea, Nadine Delepine, at 14 Rue Princesse, Un Jour Un Sac at 27 Blvd. Raspail and Cire Trudon at 78 Rue de Seine.
The shops range in specialties from candles to fancy paper, from hand-designed jewelry and hats to children’s clothing. Keep in mind that many Parisian boutiques are closed on Mondays. You might also want to call ahead to see which shops close for summer holidays in August before making a cross-town foray only to discover your hand-picked shop is closed (like Karine Dupont’s shop that reopens at 3:30 pm for its afternoon hours but was curiously still closed when I arrived after 3:30 pm). Although Parisian boutiques normally don’t open before 10 am or 11 am, they remain open until 7 pm. What chic shopper would be caught out on the city streets before 11 am, after all?
What Does ‘Chic’ Mean Anyhow?
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Which brings me to the essence of the word ‘chic’. It means quite simply ‘elegant’.
Curiously, when you use the word ‘chic’ to describe a person, it can mean ‘elegant’ but when you use the word to describe a person’s actions it means ‘generous’. If the dictionary permits, I’d like to add ‘refined’ to the description of ‘chic’.
You may or may not agree with all of Rebecca Perry Magniant’s choices for her ‘chic boutique categories’ but I was delighted to see at least two of the boutiques in her listing which I’d previously earmarked for future visits: Cire Trudon –the royal candlemaker’s shop on Rue de Seine and Karine Arabian on Rue de Papillon in the 9th (for when I’m rich and infamous some day).
The definition of ‘chic’ may vary from person to person. In other words, you can’t simply buy a book, go to a boutique and attain instant ‘chicdom’. As much as Americans like the quick fix, style like any art takes time, observation and a good amount of self-awareness (plus a dose of confidence) Use this book as a starting point (along with Little Bookroom’s Paris Chic and Trendy shopping) but, not as your bible. Even if you find some of the shops to border on ‘stodgy,’ you are likely to stumble upon other boutiques in the vicinity that best suit your personal look.
Can you afford to be a chic shopper?
Ahh, voila the great dilemma. So here is my funny experience. Of the shops that I did choose to enter, the boutique called ‘Un Jour Un Sac’ fascinated me. It’s actually called Francois Renier, by the way, if you’re looking for it at 27 Boulevard Raspail. The shop window just says Francois Renier and the shop is not actually at #27, but slightly before you reach the #27 address. You’ll know you’ve found it you’re when you see a palette of multi-colored handbags in the window and eager women hovering around the counter. I liked the concept of being able to buy a separate handbag handle to go with whichever material you wanted for the actual handbag. When I asked about the cost of one of the models on display, the clerk rang up the cost including a summer sales discount – 38 Euros, she whispered. I nodded ‘yes’ too soon: 38 Euros was the cost just for the handbag’s handle. Adding the cost of the cloth for the handbag brought us quickly up to 90 Euros. At this point, I glanced at one of the clients to my left. She sported a Jimmy Choo red tote slung cavalierly over her shoulder and I sighed. I was in over my head. Helas, not in the budget this month. So, thanks anyhow, and maybe next time.
That is not to say that some of the shops listed in Chic Shopping Paris are definitely affordable with a little bit of careful planning. Two of the shops I visited would be perfect for an elegant Parisian souvenir for that friend of yours who deserves something out of the ordinary. In other words, you’d like to be ‘chic’ in both senses of the word – generous AND elegant.
In this case, I would definitely recommend Chic Shopping’s choice of Cire Trudon, the royal candlemaker’s shop. For May 1st I bought a candle decorated with lily-of-the valley for less than 10 Euros. You can go all out and buy a replica candle shaped as a statue of Napoleon. Or truly chic black candles.
The history of Trudon candles goes back to 1643 – candlemaker to the kings of France including Louis XIV and Louis XVI, the Trudon candlemaking process was considered the example par excellence for the craft using the best beeswax in the country.
Another suggestion for an affordable souvenir might be Nadine Delepine’s Eiffel Tower earrings. If you’ve already had your fill of ‘tacky souvenirs’, Delepine’s discreet boutique at 14 Rue Princesse is the epitome of understatement. You can snap up a pair of Eiffel Tower earrings or a monumental charm bracelet (includes the famous monuments of Paris) for that ‘impossible to please’ girlfriend. Your ‘chic’ gesture will not set you back too much here (Prices are in the 40 Euro to 50 Euros range).
Why Should You Buy this Book?
In summary, Chic Shopping Paris will prove a useful jump-off point for serious shoppers. The addresses listed here will get you headed to the right neighborhoods and out of the tourist trap alleys i.e. Rue de Rivoli and Champs Elysees. It’s especially useful if you’re looking for specialty item such as gloves or handcrafted watchband straps, just to give two examples.
Personally speaking, Parisgirl would like to see a similar book exploring some of the less expensive and more outrageous shops (I prefer style that takes risks)– but I’m perfectly happy to wait. Maybe the dollar will get stronger in the meantime.
Chic Shopping Paris by Rebecca Perry Magniant
The Little Book Room New York $16.95 208 Pages.
Shops I visited:
78 Rue de Seine 6eme
14 Rue Princesse 6ene
Un Jour Un Sac ( Francois Renier)
27 blvd. Raspail (just before #27)
Metro: Sevres Babylone
4 Rue Papillon 9eme
Metro: Cadet, Poissonniere
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